Small bits of rumor, lore, stories, and signage from Memphis, TN brought to your earbuds weekly. Join partners in time Caitlin L. Horton, author of Memphis Type History, and Rebecca Phillips, the artist behind Memphis Type Illustrated, as they tell each other stories from Memphis history, interview interesting people about Memphis history, and more.
Your Attention Please [Hiatus]
In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Caitlin and Rebecca tell you why they have been missing in case you've been wondering. But don't fret, they'll be back! In the meantime, tune in to hear what's brewing for Memphis Type History and look ahead for a new batch of episodes to come.
There is so much more history in this city to discover so of course they will continue. In the meantime, take a moment to catch up on listening or listen back to some of our personal favorites that we mention in this episode.
For full show notes, visit memphistypehistory.com/hiatus
Zines 101 with Erica Qualy
In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Rebecca has a conversation with Erica S. Qualy to learn all about the art of zines. What are they? What is the purpose? Can anyone make their own? We answer those questions and more for your enlightenment and for the annual Memphis Zine Fest that is open for all to attend!
If you're familiar with our book, you may recognize Erica's name from our chapter of the Lorraine Motel. She's actually the one who sparked Rebecca's interest in zines in the first place.
So, what is a zine?
A zine is a do-it-yourself publication produced in editions of less than 100. Usually it's just an 8.5x11 piece of paper folded up and stapled with whatever content you want to tell. At first, everything was cut and paste and hand-drawn, but now people have the ability to include photoshop elements. Erica states that she herself is a purist and sticks to the cut and paste method. She also gives insight on what her process is which you can hear on this episode. For example, Erica uses her own typewriter.
Where did the zine start?
That's a good question. Some people would consider tracing zines back to Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses written in 1517. But the fandom of science fiction works in the 1930s is what really set it off. Fans published and traded their own stories and those became known as "fanzines" the abbreviation of fan magazine and later shortened to just zine (zeen).
Erica touches on some great material she researched but makes a point to call out that the zines we most commonly reference came from 70s because that was the start of newer technologies that allowed these to be easier to produce. In the 70s and 80s is when the punk scene entered influencing the voice and art of zines. Even into the 90s a lot of band used zines to produce their own voice, awareness, feminism, and empowerment.
Most importantly, visit the Memphis Zine Fest!
Thanks to Erica and Crosstown Arts, artists are able to showcase and sell their own zines each year during the Memphis Zine Fest. This year's fest will be Friday, July 20 at the theater stairs in the central atrium of Crosstown Concourse. It's free to attend and open to all ages from 4P–7P but bring some cash so you can buy some fun zines and support the arts.
And if you're interested in becoming a zine maker (which you probably are now), you can apply to be a vendor at the event! Just visit crosstownarts.org.
For full show notes, visit memphistypehistory.com/zine
Starring Elvis with Sheena and Savannah
In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Rebecca meets Sheena and Savannah, two spectacular ladies of Graceland, who currently run a Podcast series entitled "Starring Elvis." Whether you're an Elvis fan or not, learning about the movies the artist put his heart into and the songs that came from them is surprising. You'll hear about Sheena and Savannah's Elvis favorites, some Elvis movie history, and what inspired the the two to start this charming series in the first place.
It all started with Dawson's Creek. Well, not the show, but the podcast with fans of the show talking about each and every episode. While Sheena and Savannah were inspired by that show's podcast, their Elvis movies podcast takes a whole other bent on the idea, focusing on the movies that really solidified the status of the king in the years after he returned from war.
The hosts even run down the list of all the world-renowned actors that were in those early films with Elvis. That's just one reason they say, be careful if you assume all the films are silly or campy. One of the films in particular featured has a really interesting connection to Casablanca.
Elvis the Actor
Elvis made 31 feature films and even did a couple of concert documentaries, as well. Of those, our guests had some favorites. Our guests are particularly impressed with King Creole because it gives Elvis a real opportunity to show acting skills that were often left out in his films in favor of assumed commercial success. He portrays a character with some real depth, co-stars with Anne Margaret, and the film was directed by Michael Curtiz.
Of course, Elvis really shines in the dancing and singing sequences in his films. The ones especially worth checking out—Jailhouse Rock and Love Me Tender. The ladies say those films demonstrate his star power was really connected to his performances within the films.
The Leading Ladies
Elvis' leading ladies are well-known and many went on to have pretty impressive careers themselves. Ann Margaret, Nancy Sinatra, and Shelley Fabares are just some of the names that came up in our conversation. Of particular note was Ann Margaret performing her own song and having her name in the same size font as Elvis on the movie poster—a bit controversial at the time. Nancy Sinatra also played a big role. When the ladies talked about her connect to Elvis, the former star tweeted at them a note of thanks and that she missed Elvis.
The movies were really groundbreaking because the films were often just opportunities to push out more Elvis music between records. The soundtracks were 45's with 4-5 songs on them. The movie names were often connected to the title song such as "Love Me Tender". If you want to listen to some of the music that true fans often love the most, check out "Pocket Full of Rainbows" or even the song "So Close Yet So Far Away from Paradise" in the movie Harem Scarem. In fact, many of the songs we all know as classic Elvis singles came from film soundtracks and weren't released in any other form.
The Invention of the Karate Chop or The Fights
Some people believe another of Elvis' many innovations was the old-style movie karate chop move. Our guests tell us about how the fights were a key part of the Elvis films. And yes, he is known for a signature karate chop move. In one movie... he may have karate chopped a Jaguar. Elvis was actually known for being a passionate practicioner of karate. He loved integrating the moves he practiced on his own into any of the fight scenes. He almost never had a stunt double. One night, he was so into practicing for a fight scene, that he stayed up really late chopping wooden blocks until he felt he got the move down for the movie scene. You also may have seen Elvis' custom Gi he had made.
Pop Culture Connections
We heard a lot more about the various pop culture connections Elvis brought to our country and the world. The craziest thing to think about, is a
In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Rebecca tells Caitlin about how TGI Friday's is where people meeting at bars basically originated. You'll learn the story of how Memphis made it a franchise, and how without TGI Friday's, Caitlin may have never been born.
In 2016, TGI Fridays announced that they would be adopting a new, modernized aesthetic atmosphere. It seems to be in a trend, older chain restaurants are becoming more industrial and minimalistic in design to compete with the current competition such as Panera and Chipotle.
So all the restaurants that we grew up with like Chili's, Fuddruckers, and Joe's Crabshack may all start losing that hoarder style aesthetic if they haven't done so already. Oh by the way, that hoarder-style aesthetic happened because of TGIFridays. The initial concept was to make it feel like you were visiting someone's basement for a cocktail party.
How it all began...
Alan Stillman lived in an area of New York where there were a lot of airline stewardesses and models and basically a lot of single people. So he the best way to meet girls was to open a bar.
At the time, cocktail parties were the thing. People would bounce from one place to another and of course the parties would get wild. But Alan noticed there wasn’t really a public place for these 23-37 year olds to meet. The current bars around were more like places for guys to meet up and drink beer.
So he opened TGI Fridays in 1965 and just five years later, FDA approved the pill. The timing happened perfectly because the sexual revolution waves in and Alan essentially becomes the founder of the first single's bar.
Alan purchased a former corner bar near where he lived, had the building painted blue, hung up fake Tiffany lamps and dressed the waiters in red and white striped soccer shirts. He didn’t know anything about restaurant business, interior design, or architecture… he just knew how to create an experience.
TGI Fridays was one of the first to use promotions such as ladies’ night. And the goal of meeting women worked for him. In fact, he says Tom Cruise’s character in Cocktail was based after him.
Eventually, someone from Memphis Tennessee approached Alan and said they had an area with room for one of these and asked him if he would sell them a franchise. At the time, Alan didn’t know what a franchise meant. But he agreed to being a partner, show how to work it, and split it 50/50. A year and a half later, T.G.I. Friday’s in Memphis was open in Overton Square.
This was right after Overton Square Founders & Developers James D. Robinson, Jr. (23), Ben Woodson (25), Charles H. Hull, Jr. (24), and Frank Doggrell, III (25) led the efforts to pass a referendum to allow establishments to sell liquor by the drink. You couldn’t dine in a restaurant and have an alcoholic drink with your meal. You could apparently bring your own bottle of wine or liquor, which they called Brown-bagging, and places like Pete and Sam’s had lockers where you could keep your liquor, but you couldn’t buy a drink.
Then on November 25, 1969, the issue of “liquor by the drink” came to vote in a special referendum, and the measure passed. Friday’s opened on May 21, 1970 and it was a ridiculous success. One of the owners said if they could make $800 a day, they would break even. The first day, it brought $4,800 and it did the same every day until they expanded it, in which they went up to $7,000 a day. One of the waiters said it would be so crowded, they had to fight through customers. People would stand three and four deep at the bar, and he knows somebody had sex at the bar one night but nobody noticed because it was so crowded.
The waiters were all men because as mentioned before, the goal was to get women in the door, and most of the bartenders and waiters had nicknames such as Gringo, Harpo, The General, Shakey, Chick, Pace, and Rufus. Rebecca made sure to ask Caitlin's mom if she knew who any of these bartenders
A Rundown on Memphis Wrestling
In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Rebecca gets educated on the art of wrestling and learns why Memphis is rich in this particular history. We hear from Adam Pritchard, a devoted wrestling fan who visits Memphis in hopes of encountering one of the many heroes he only ever experienced by watching tv from across the pond.
First, we asked what memories you had of Memphis wrestling and we shared a few of those stories to kick us off on what the highlights were. But what ended up happening was it gave Rebecca a lot of questions. What was with these wrestling names? Was "Handsome Jimmy Valiant" truly handsome? What was the Fargo strut?
Fortunately, her brother-in-law, Adam Pritchard, is very passionate about wrestling and was the one who informed her that Memphis was a big deal in this sport. When Adam came to visit Memphis, the highlight of his trip was touring the Channel 5 station because that's where DAVE BROWN was. Another visit highlight was King Jerry Lawler's Hall of Fame Bar & Grille.
And so it came to be that out of curiosity of this topic, Rebecca interviewed Adam to learn exactly why he loves wrestling so much and what role Memphis had in this entertainment that she was unaware of.
Adam starts by telling how he fell in love with wrestling and what he remembers most about what he first started watching. He says there is more to wrestling than what we may realize and you can tune in to the episode to hear what his current favorite type of wrestling is.
He also gives a 101 on wrestling. Was it always staged? Was there always a story? The answer is yes. It was a way to engage the audience to follow along with the wrestler and his character or story.
One character that many are familiar with is Hulk Hogan who was considered as one of the "good guys." However, Rebecca learns that one city's hero could enter another wrester's territory and become the bad guy for that city.
Jerry "The King" Lawler was an example of a wrestler who was seen as a good guy and hero in Memphis but seen as a bad guy in other territories that he crossed into, fighting the good guy wrestlers in those places. The best part was that him as a bad guy in, for example, Florida or Texas, wasn't televised in Memphis. So he remained as only a bad guy in the eyes of other territories because that's all they saw.
Today you don't really see that anymore because everything is pretty much national.
So how did Adam even knew about all of this at a time when it wasn't national and he watched wrestling in England?
He said the way fans connected and learned all the stories was through wrestling magazine and VHS tape trading.
Adam then talks about how the Mid-South Coliseum was where wrestling was at and even about a particular show that happened there between Terry Funk and Jerry Lawler when the arena was completely empty. You can imagine the tape trading was huge with that one because no one was there to see it.
While Memphis was known for not being the most well-paid territory for wrestlers, it was a territory that many wrestlers came through because it was well-respected and gave them great exposure and experience.
In addition to learning about the greatness of the Coliseum, I learn about the role of the announcers, other well-known Memphis wrestlers like Sputnik Monroe, and the famous beef between Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler, who I discovered has a dangerous signature move. Learning that it was all staged also made me realize wrestling can actually be quite convincing.
To sum it all up, if you're a true wrestling fan, you probably have a high respect for Memphis and it's a good territory to be in.
For full show notes, go to memphistypehistory.com/wrestling
In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, we look at the history behind a few Memphis mansions. Hear from Caitlin about Ashlar Hall's many lives and the history behind the Woodruff Fontaine House. Then hear Rebecca tell a little history and description of the Annesdale mansion which could be your next wedding location.
Robert Brinkley Snowden grew up in Annesdale with his parents, Robert Bogardus Snowden and Annie Overton Brinkley Snowden, who lived in the Annesdale mansion because Annie’s dad bought it for them (learn more about Annesdale from Rebecca later in the show!) He went to Princeton to study architecture and returned to Memphis in 1896 to build everyone’s favorite 11,000 square foot local castle at 1937 Central Avenue – Ashlar Hall!
This quote that Creme de Memph dug up from Memphis: An Architectural Guide about the Gothic Revival Mansion was simply delightful: "one wonders what books about medieval castles Snowden brought back with him from Princeton, or perhaps the whole may have been influenced by a too-early reading of Ivanhoe."
The three-story, 8-bedroom mansion only cost $24,900 to build, which is $683,767.48 in today’s money. Inside are six bars, five bathrooms, and a swimming pool. Rumor has it there are two secret passages under the mansion: One passing under Lamar to Snowden mansion in Annesdale and the other leading under Central to the University Club’s pool area.
Snowden would go on to take over the Peabody Hotel when it relocated in 1925, as the original one was started by his great-grandfather, Colonel Robert C. Brinkley, back in 1869.
After Robert died in 1942, the place went into disrepair and became a Grisanti’s restaurant called Conestoga Steak House at some point in the ‘60s. In 1970 it became Ashlar Hall Restaurant. In 1983 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The mansion’s next life began in the ‘90s when Prince Mongo turned it into a nightclub called the Castle for a few years before abandoning it. Sometime around 2013, ownership started switching around for Ashlar Hall and the property fell further into disrepair. There are links below for the latest on its current life.
This mansion of Memphis is located at 680 Adams in the heart of Victorian Village.
In 1845, Amos Woodruff and his brother arrived in Memphis from Rahway, New Jersey, with the intent of expanding their business of making carriages. Although his brother went back to New Jersey, Amos found great success with carriages in Memphis and his other ventures: the Overton Hotel, two banks, a cotton compress firm, a lumber company, running the Memphis & Ohio Railroad, and the Southern Life Insurance Company
In 1870, Woodruff spent $12,000 on land in “Millionaire’s Row,” in what was then the outskirts of Memphis. It's now known as Victorian Village, and it was here that he started building his five-story French Victorian mansion at a cost of $40,000. He also built a carriage house on the property alongside beautiful gardens and fountains. He lived in this 18-room mansion, with its three great halls and a three-story tower, with his wife, Phoebe, and their four children: Sallie, Mollie, Frank, and Cora.
Many believe that the Woodruff-Fontaine house is haunted by Mollie Woodruff’s ghost. Some haunted moments include staff seeing Mollie's form in smoke, seeing her sitting on the bed in her former childhood room, and her demonstrations of anger like slamming doors and breaking items when anything gets moved or redecorated. Supposedly, her bed is sometimes dented as if someone has been lying there.... even though it’s roped off from all visitors. One paranormal website said she once told museum docents how they should have the furniture arranged. So of course we have to tell you more about her in this episode!
In the 1960s, the mansion was in danger of demolition. So the Memphis chapter of the Association for the Preserva
Memories and things I never knew.
If you’ve lived in Memphis or just interested, this shows a really fun way to learn and reminisce. Wish I wasn’t almost done with the episodes….
I love all things Memphis, and this is so great. I’m really sad there aren’t new episodes anymore so I know I will run out of content soon.
A pure Memphis treasure
This is a delightful, informative show about all things 901, from the past to the present. A true gem and always something I look forward to listening to.